by Max Brantley
H.B. 1797 by Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993.
Why This Bill is Troubling: The Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 is designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of things like race, sex, or religion. H.B. 1797 adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes contained in the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993. This could harm people of faith, churches, and others who have objections to homosexual and transgender behavior or same-sex marriage.
H.B. 2088 by Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) provides enhanced penalties for a criminal offense committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
Why This Bill is Troubling: Traditionally, laws enhancing penalties for certain crimes focus on a victim’s physical vulnerability or on the nature of the crime. That’s why penalties are often enhanced for crimes against children, the elderly, or the disabled, and that's why penalties are often enhanced for particularly heinous crimes.
However, laws enhancing the penalties for crimes committed because of a person’s identity or status provide special protections for some people, but not for others. Additionally, they may be used by activists—such as homosexual or transgender activists—to advance a political agenda.
S.B. 580 by Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) deals with presumption of parentage in cases of surrogacy and artificial insemination. It effectively upends a good ruling the Arkansas Supreme Court issued last December regarding an effort to list two "mothers” on birth certificates.
Why This Bill is Troubling: As the Arkansas Supreme Court essentially noted, no child has two “mothers.” Children have a mother and a father. Birth certificates exist to record that a child was born and who the child’s parents are—and they can already be amended in cases of adoption. Birth certificates are not simply pieces of paper. They are vital records that need to be accurate and deserve respect. We should be careful not to let them become political ploys.